BWW Reviews: Octogenarian Singer Dominick Morra Debuts at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal
Upon exiting Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal on Sunday October 20, I overheard someone say "There are no cabaret shows like this anymore." Sad, but true! Dominick Morra, at 80 years young, proves that he is vocally every bit as good as he was some 50 years ago. With a face like Anthony Quinn and a voice like John Raitt, Morra has a vocal instrument akin to a silver flute. On Broadway in Call Me Madam and having crossed country on many National tours of such shows as Camelot, Morra spent most of the 70-minute set of Keep the Music Playing reminiscing about his career through some of the greatest music of all time. With an unassuming style, he is a true gentleman and doesn't need a big outgoing approach to reach his audience. His friendly manner and great voice say it all. With fine musical direction from Paul Cady at the piano, Morra presented a cabaret, which one can only hope is a new beginning for him.
Highlights included many powerhouse songs like "All the Things You Are", "Song on the Sand" from La Cage Aux Folles, Sondheim's "Too Many Mornings" from Follies, and the Bergmans'
"How Do You Keep the Music Playing?", which supplied his show's title. Big full-throttle songs for a powerful voice! There were three medleys, one called Words and Music, which included: "My Funny Valentine", the beautiful "She Touched Me" from The Fantastiks, a gorgeous rendition of "Stranger in Paradise" from Kismet, and "What Is This Thing Called Love". The lyrics of one song simply flowed into those of another with Morra's seemingly effortless delivery and smooth styling. There was also an upbeat and bright Gershwin medley with: "But Not For Me", "Do It Again", "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and "S'Wonderful". The third medley spotlighted Maltby and Shire with "One Step", the haunting "Autumn" and very dramatic "I Don't Remember Christmas". In a lighter vein, Morra presented "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid" from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and the deliciously irreverent "Fireman Song" about a fairy in the firehouse. Morra has also written songs and one very lovely composition entitled "Los Angeles Love Song" worked its loving way into this program. Cady, who also possesses a strong and lilting voice, dueted with Morra on "You're Just in Love" and later solo'd with "What Kind of Fool Am I?" accompanying himself on piano.
Let's get back to the comment made by a patron about the lack of nostalgia in cabaret nowadays. Unfortunately, younger people do not have a taste for this kind of music. They would rather hear Wicked or Tommy than Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter or George Gershwin. It's the 50 and up crowd that appreciate and support the vintage stuff. Pink Lady Jackie Goldberg is in the process of trying to form a permanent theatre/home base for seniors to entertain. Let's hope she succeeds. It's entirely possible; just look at the years of success of the Palm Springs Follies! Vibrant experienced dancers, actors and singers like Dominick Morra should be able to keep performing, to do what they do best for our entertainment pleasure. Morra is a sterling example of a musical era that should never die. Keep this Music Playing by all means!